Meteor Entertainment’s CEO Mark Long explains how the free-to-play mech shooter will be more than just a game.
‘Transmedia’ is one of those horrible marketing terms that has become commonplace in the games industry, especially over the past twelve months. We’ve seen efforts like Mass Effect 3 get animated and literary ties-ins. The return of Master Chief was marked not only by Halo 4. but also the live-action series Forward Unto Dawn. Expanding these beloved franchises into new forms of media in search of new fans, or more appropriately revenue, is something that we should all be excited about but all too often we’re left disappointed thanks to terrible production values (see Dead Space: Downfall), common fiction inaccuracies (hello Mass Effect: Deception) or just simply a lack of content.
To avoid those issues Meteor Entertainment and Adhesive Games are adopting a different approach when it comes to the free-to-play mech shooter HAWKEN. Before the game has even properly launched they’ve already set in motion a web series produced by Warner Bros., a comic book and tie-in novel, as well as a new animated series currently in production at FUNimation which we can reveal today.
“Our transmedia strategy at first glance may look overly ambitious, like doing a movie about something that hasn’t even launched yet, but on the other hand we’re completely in creative control of all those elements,” explained Meteor Entertainment’s CEO Mark Long.
This control is something that Long considers absolutely crucial. A lot of video-game tie-ins have very little to offer when it comes to telling new, interesting stories in an existing universe, and that’s something that Meteor Entertainment are all too aware of.
“Having been on the other side of the equation and having made terrible video games based on movies and seeing some of my favourite games turned into awful movies, there was this frustration. If only I could’ve gone back in time met that writer and tell them this one thing, it wouldn’t have made the movie less good but it would’ve made our project so much better.”
“Really what we’re doing is planning for success,” Mark tells us with a twinkle in his eye and excitement in is voice, that Meteor well and truly believe they’re onto a winner.
“We’re striving to find titles like Hawken that just stand out and are completely singular in terms of gameplay, art-direction or talent of the prospective team That’s a very high-bar and also one that one that everybody else is obviously looking for. That was the case with Adhesive Games, they were being chased by everybody. Ultimately we talked them into going free-to-play because they could find a bigger audience as a result”
In many ways it seems as though Meteor Entertainment are taking a lot of cues from The Walking Dead, which is owned wholesale by series creator Robert Kirkman and his company, Skybound Entertainment. Kirkman guards his popular survival horror universe very carefully only working with creative forces that understand the appeal of his series, and HAWKEN’s creators are adopting a similar stance. The live-action trailer for the HAWKEN web series is a prime example of that.
Despite being produced by Warner Bros. and Silver Pictures, Meteor made sure that HAWKEN’s creative director Khang Lee was heavily involved, along with his art team, and they even hired acclaimed visionary game artist Jerry O’Flaherty, the guy behind Gears of War’s unique look, to direct the project to ensure ‘gamer appeal’ was more than present.
“I always point to the Wachowskis and the Matrix. After the success of the first movie they went into transmedia design, with the second movie, the Animatrix and Enter The Matrix: The Game. You could argue each one was maybe a little disappointing compared to the first, but at the same time if you experienced all those pieces together they really worked well. The Animatrix in particular was really satisfying for me, because they took the Matrix cannon and unleashed it on these great animé directors and studios, and you got a really surprising result. At the same time it was definitely within the cannon, I thought the whole ‘Rise of the Machines’ story was much more interesting than Neo’s story.”
“It isn’t well known but we’ve commissioned a comic, a graphic novel, a prose novel, a live-action web series with Warner Bros. and Silver Pictures and the animé has been signed by FUNimation. With the feature film we have a director and writers attached, and we’ll talk to studios at the end of the year.”
The proof will obviously be in the pudding and there’s still a lot of work to be done if all these tie-in products are going to add to the HAWKEN universe in a meaningful manner. The free-to-play game doesn’t contain much detailed story information other than you’re in a mech, go kill something, so there’s plenty of story padding to be had.
According to Chinese traditions 2013 is the year of the Snake, but if Meteor Entertainment and their army of media partners have their way it might just be the year of the mech. Whatever the case, we all should expect to hear plenty more about HAWKEN over the next twelve months.
Yes all this content is transmedia, but hopefully these collaborations help that term lose its power to immediately make gamers’ eyes roll.
HAWKEN goes into Open Beta on Wednesday, 12th December.
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